Heroes for Hire
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Heroes for Hire(pop culture)
Arevival, continuation, and expansion of the “mercenary superhero” concept that Marvel Comics originated in 1972 with its Luke Cage: Hero for Hire comic, Marvel’s latter-day Heroes for Hire series began its brief run a quarter-century later. Written by veteran comic-book fabulist John Ostrander (with the collaboration of the equally august Roger Stern on the premiere issue), with pencils by Paschalis Ferry, Scott Kolins, Martin Egeland, and Mary Mitchell, Heroes for Hire reunited Marvel’s first “professional” superhero, Power Man (Luke Cage), with his 1970s and 1980s crime-fighting partner, the martial arts expert and “living weapon” known as Iron Fist (Danny Rand). In the fondly recalled pages of Power Man and Iron Fist (1978–1986), this pair of mismatched yet complementary heroes had founded Heroes for Hire, Inc., which allowed the duo, and associates such as the Daughters of the Dragon (female martial-arts adventurers Misty Knight and Colleen Wing), to make a living by selling (or as often by donating) their unique skills as bodyguards, detectives, and superpowered fighters.
Just as Marvel’s editorial staff and publishing program had grown exponentially since the premiere of the original Luke Cage title, the superteam assembled by Stern and Ostrander for Heroes for Hire expanded greatly as well, bringing aboard the Hulk, Hercules (now no longer an immortal), Ant Man (Scott Lang), the Black Knight (Dane Whitman), and the White Tiger (another martial arts hero). As in its predecessor series, Heroes for Hire dealt with the conflict between doing good and doing well—the tension that inevitably arises between being heroic for ethical reasons and the need to keep paying the bills.
As the series unfolds, a diverse panoply of other Marvel characters strut across its stage, ranging from second-stringers such as the Golden Age (1938–1954) Human Torch (who joins the team in the second issue); Jane Foster, the human alter ego of Thor’s old girlfriend (Heroes for Hire #5, 1997); Brother Voodoo (issue #13, 1998); She-Hulk (issue #17, 1998); Quicksilver (Heroes for Hire/Quicksilver Annual, 1998); and Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu (issues #18-#19, 1998-1999) to such certified audience draws as the Punisher (issue #9, 1998) and the X-Men’s Wolverine (issues #18–#19, 1998–1999). One significant plot thread recounts Iron Fist’s misguided effort to bring the mystical city of K’un-Lun, the place where he was raised and trained, to Earth from its native dimension. This plan could have devastated the planet, and is finally resolved in the four-issue Iron Fist/Wolverine: The Return of K’un-Lun miniseries (2000–2001), written by Jay Faerber and drawn by Jamal Igle.
Ultimately, Hero for Hire’s revived super-squad-for-profit failed to click with comics audiences; the series was given its walking papers in 1999 after a mere nineteen issues. In 2006, Marvel launched a new Heroes for Hire series, that was originally written by the team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray and drawn by Billy Tucci. The line-up was a mix of costumed superheroes and non-costumed adventurers, including the Black Cat, Daughters of the Dragon (Misty Knight and Colleen Wing), costumed criminal Humbug, Atlantean supervillain Orka, the mercenary Paladin, Shang-Chi, and the new female Tarantula. Humbug betrayed the team and was killed, and the group broke up.
Yet another Heroes for Hire series began in 2011, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, with a roster initially including the Black Widow, Elektra, the Falcon, Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze), Iron Fist, Moon Knight, Paladin, the Punisher, and the female mercenary Silver Sable. Spider-Man later joins the group. Despite the name “Heroes for Hire,” this latest version of the group does not pay its members.
Nevertheless, like many real-world entrepreneurs, Power Man, Iron Fist, and many in their circle of working-stiff superheroes are no strangers to the occasional failure, series-cancellation, or even death; at some point in the future, they can be relied upon to bounce back and resume righting wrongs for love and money. —MAM & PS